Ulysses Goes Global: Notre Dame celebrates 100 years of James Joyce’s masterpiece

Author: Brendan O'Shaughnessy

Ulysses 1600

Kevin Whelan is standing on a street corner of Merrion Square, just across the park from Notre Dame’s Dublin Global Gateway where he is the director, spinning a story about how James Joyce haunts every part of Dublin, if you know where to look.

Joyce stood on this spot for about four hours on June 16, 1904, waiting for his first date with Nora Barnacle, his future wife and the primary model for Molly Bloom, the female protagonist of “Ulysses.” Joyce set this date as the novel’s single day, which is now celebrated as Bloomsday every year in Dublin. Whelan said the Galway-born Barnacle represented for Joyce the earthy values of the authentic Irish countryside in contrast to his British-derivative city.

But Barnacle was cleaning a nearby hotel and couldn’t get out of extra work that day, so they postponed until the next day. The waiting must have stuck with Joyce.

“The kick-start of the novel is that date, but I find it highly Irish that he set the novel on the 16th of June, not the 17th, because nothing happened on the 16th except the rain,” Whelan says. “He was probably under this tree, thinking about this raven-haired Irish beauty.”

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Originally published by Brendan O'Shaughnessy at news.nd.edu on March 10, 2022.